The U.S. and Germany’s top diplomats issued a joint warning to Russia ahead of high-level security talks in Europe next week, pledging “massive” economic consequences if Vladimir Putin proceeds with an invasion of Ukraine.
Why it matters: With Russia massing troops on the Ukrainian border and questions swirling about how far Germany is prepared to go to deter Putin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and new German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock presented a united front at their first press conference together in Washington.
The big picture: President Biden told Putin last week that there are two paths for dealing with the Ukraine crisis — a path of “diplomacy” or a path of “deterrence,” which would entail sanctions and more military support to NATO’s eastern flank.
- Top U.S. and Russian officials will meet on Jan. 10 for a “strategic stability dialogue,” which Blinken said would only cover bilateral issues.
- That will be followed by meetings of the NATO-Russia Council on Jan. 12 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation on Jan. 13.
- Russia has stressed that it needs to see “concrete” and swift results in response to its security demands, which include legal guarantees that NATO will not expand to the east.
What they’re saying: “I believe that if Russia is serious about pursuing diplomacy and de-escalation, that there are things that all of us can do relatively quickly to build greater confidence and to reduce some of the concerns that we have,” Blinken said at the press conference.
- “It’s very hard to make actual progress in any of these areas in an atmosphere of escalation and threat, with a gun pointed to Ukraine’s head,” he added.
- Blinken condemned Russia’s “false narrative” that Ukraine is seeking to provoke a conflict, telling reporters: “That’s a little bit like the fox saying it had no choice but to attack the henhouse because somehow the hens presented a threat.”